My cat, god rest her soul, had hyperesthesia. I found out a little late, however, for I couldn’t place her bursts of wild behavior until I took her to a vet, who insisted it was nothing to worry about as long as the scratching wouldn’t result in a serious infection. But it was difficult for me. I remember sometimes when I would unconsciously pet her while she was asleep, and she’d burst into some kind of seizure. Other times she would urinate on the floor while scratching herself. I’d have to withdraw my hand quickly to avoid getting scratched. But it seemed like it wasn’t getting worse, and I had been told it was a common condition amongst felines, so it didn’t seem like much of a cause for concern later. I had a job that allowed me to get home early and I could spend time with her. That was all that mattered.
Her name was Tiger tail, for she had a strange golden pattern on her back that looked like brown spots in golden stripes. Her name was taken out of a children's book I had when I was learning to read. That book was perhaps the first I ever read on my own, but I’m not so sure. I did read it many times, though; it had many short stories woven around some main characters. Tiger Tail was one of the characters, and as far as I can remember from the illustration, he looked like my cat. I do remember that in one of the stories, he climbed up a cupboard and couldn’t climb down. I’m unsure of what happened next, but my cat climbed everything, as she was so full of ‘feline fervor’, and so the name just fit. She’d have no trouble getting down, however.
I had a job that wasn’t very demanding, but it didn’t pay much. I could afford to keep a cat with me and have proper meals, though, and back then, that was all that mattered. Sometimes, I could afford the luxury of eating out, but by myself, for I was a plain-looking maiden with no financial security. I had a large bookshelf in my bedroom that would get an additional book every once a month or so. My rented apartment was on the ground floor, so Tiger Tail could walk in and out through a large glass door near a small muddy garden in the area whenever she felt like it.
She’d sit near my feet sometimes. I had to resist the urge to nuzzle her back while she slept, but the contact was enough to keep my lonely heart warmed.
Tiger Tail had done this then. I was reading a book late at night, and she crept into my bedroom and fell asleep near my feet. I don’t remember which book it was, but it was a good one, for I was awake through most of the night to read it. The rest of the night I couldn’t sleep anyway.
The chair wasn’t comfortable, and I hadn’t anywhere to keep my cup of coffee and bowl of sugar after I was done, so I had kept them down. Now I could see that ants had infested the bowl. I’d do something about it later, I decided.
But at about midnight, the lights went out. It was a bad time for a power cut, but it reminded me of how late it was. I couldn’t see a thing in the blackness. And I wouldn’t be able to read my book, which was a shame.
I wanted to get up and into bed. My chair was getting uncomfortable. But my cat was so deeply asleep that I didn’t want to disturb it by moving my leg from under its skin rippled by hypersensitivity. While I debated it, I my sight got better. A little light streamed from the large window overlooking a dreary garden. I could see how peacefully Tiger Tail slept beside my leg.
That was enough for me. Maybe she was far too fast asleep to notice. I shifted my leg and got up, keeping my book down on the chair. I didn’t remember the page number, but I’d find it later.
It didn’t happen immediately, which gave me time for doubt.
Tiger tail stirred. Then, she was wide awake, itching herself and biting her tail. I couldn’t see her clearly, but it seemed like she’d hurt herself this time. I reached out to pick up my coffee mug and bowl of sugar and keep it away from the convulsing cat. I managed to touch her just slightly in the process, and it set off a worse reaction that came as such a shock that I dropped the sugar and the mug.
The broken pieces hurt her. The floor hurt her. Even the grains of sugar did. My cat had begun to wail. Hurriedly, I gathered the broken pieces, and got ants on my hand. I suppose what hurt her most must have been the ants. She scratched at herself so violently that it drew blood.
Have you ever heard a cat scream?
It sounds choked. It sounds like the cat’s throat is being corroded. And it sounds loud and painful in the beginning but by the end it becomes a low rasp, and sounds heartbreaking. It sounds strangely human in the end. Like the cat has given up on life itself. I don’t think cats ‘’can’’ scream. I don’t think Tiger Tail was affected by anything as simple as Hyperesthesia. For as I was panicking and calling for help out the window for any neighbor still awake, I could see her in to moonlight, and she had clawed out most of the skin on her back along with a large chunk of flesh.
I had opened the glass door in the room, pushing the curtains aside, and called for help. My voice was shaky. It seemed like my legs would give way any time. And then they did. I fell to the ground and cried out into the night, panic-stricken. I couldn’t do much else.
Her skin looked like a strange, fleshy jacket. It looked like she was turning it inside out, which indeed she was.
It was over soon enough, and before anyone could react to my panicked screams and arrive at my doorstep. My cat, slowly, but surely, turned its skin inside out in the little bit of moonlight that streamed through the window. I could see tufts of ugly golden fur, sticky with blood, sticking out from her. Most of her was a fleshy pink layer covering her, but it was grossly cut and couldn’t cover her whole. Some furry parts of her back were left untouched; they looked ugly with blood. And the pool of blood around her looked strange in the moonlight.
Before anyone could arrive, she was dead. Then the doorbell woke her up. It would have been funny under other circumstances that my landlord had arrived first; he was probably demanding to know why I had been making such a racket.
My cat got up on its upturned paws. Slipped. Then regained its composure, and very naturally, like it would do every time after a seizure, walked off through a gap in the window, leaving bloody paw prints behind.